There have been a number of important position “adjustments” recently by governmental actors and agencies with regard to hydrofracking. Here is a short list of some of them, with links to good information about any you may not as yet know the details about:
–Senator Ron Wyden, who is expected to head the US Senate’s Energy Committee next year, is pressuring Steven Chu, Obama’s Energy Secretary, to explain the criteria that will be used to make decisions on the applications pending to convert LNG importing facilities to exporting facilities. He has written a letter to Chu, and given interviews on the subject to journalists. The Hill’s Energy and Environment blog links to the letter he wrote, asking for an “all-inclusive description” of factors the department will consider as it decides about the export applications. They quote:
“It is important that DOE include in its description how it considers current and proposed exports’ impact on domestic natural gas supplies, air pollutant emissions, domestic natural gas prices, electricity prices, U.S. employment and manufacturing, and economic growth.”
–In a decision posted November 15, US District Court Judge David Hurd ruled that Chesapeake Appalachia can’t use force majeure as a reason to claim that expired leases are still in force. The company had been trying to claim force majeure based on the idea that NYS review of high volume slick water fracking was preventing them from exploring for oil. But, the judge noted that there are many other ways to explore for oil, for which a permit can currently be obtained. So, the state was not preventing the company from exploring for oil. This will allow a number of landowners to end their leases, as the term is up.
–Governor Cuomo, answering a question posed by a reporter, indicated that the DEC would “have to” apply for an extension, as it would not meet the November 29 deadline for promulgating regulations. An excellent analysis of the meaning of this was published by NRDC lawyer Kate Sinding on her blog. She suggests that asking for a 90-day extension on the regulations (rather than starting over), results in asking for public comment on the regs that are meant to mitigate environmental impacts (including impacts on human health) before the revised SGEIS makes clear what those impacts would be. Kate calls that “putting the sled before the reindeer.” Going forward in this manner puts the 30-day public comment period on the regs squarely in the middle of the holiday season. The Times Union reports that the DEC confirmed this course of action:
DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis subsequently confirmed it: “DEC will file a notice for a 90-day extension allowed by state law to continue to work as Dr. Shah’s health review of the SGEIS comes to completion,” she said in an e-mail.
–The Independent Democratic Caucus— a group of 4 Democratic Senators that have expressed a willingness to collaborate with Republicans in the NYS Senate– have indicated that they would like to establish their Caucus in the Senate’s rules. As reported by Joseph Spector of Gannett:
In an interview this afternoon with Gannett’s Albany Bureau, Klein, D-Bronx, disputed that the IDC would back Senate Republicans to keep the majority. He said the IDC wants the Senate rules changed so it has “equal authority over everything.” Klein said that “the rules of the Senate is what governs what we do every day. And we can do something, I think, very bold, very creative, something that I think is going to work very well in the New York state Senate by creating a third conference, the Independent Democratic Conference, as a permanent conference in the rules.”
How will these changes in position impact the ongoing fracking debate? Not clear. However, it is obvious that the election fall-out is resulting in delicate strategic adjustments. Stay tuned– and stay alert.